Is making elder abuse a ‘hate crime’ going to be effective?
Elder abuse is a crime but there could be a better approach to stopping it…
The Government has announced it’s going to ask the Law Commission to review the categories of ‘hate crimes’ to see if they should be extended to cover wider groups of people including the elderly.
Hate crimes attract longer sentences because those types of crimes affect minorities and vulnerable groups and spread fear within their communities. The BBC has quoted the charity Action on Elder Abuse as saying that the inclusion of elder abuse as a hate crime is long overdue.
It is probably correct that the prospect of a longer prison sentence will deter a few of the abusers of elderly and vulnerable people but most will remain confident of avoiding prosecution.
“Abusers of elderly people aren’t afraid of criminal prosecution”
The problem is that many elderly people fear reporting the crimes. Their relationship with their abusers is often complex and older people in particular often worry that they will bring shame on their families by speaking out. The abused person may be even more fearful of reporting it if they think their abuser could face harsher punishment together with the added publicity that brings.
Many victims of elder abuse have never been involved with the police and courts system and would rather accept the abuse than bring it to the attention of the police. It is therefore questionable how effective extending the classification of ‘hate’ to such crimes would be.
In my daily work as a solicitor specialising in age and disability issues, I see many examples of the financial and physical abuse of older and vulnerable people. Our successes in recovering misappropriated assets and preventing attorneys and deputies from overreaching their powers are the result of the approach we use to the problems.
Dragging the perpetrators through the criminal court system is a long and difficult process and one that doesn’t always achieve the result required. The victim is often left feeling even greater fear and anxiety along with a sense of guilt that they have brought about the downfall of a relative or close friend.
Taking a different approach to elder abuse cases
We work with families to resolve the problems through practical alternative solutions. For more information about our services call 0115 7722129 or visit our website at www.barkerevanslaw #elderabuse
Rosamund Evans is Regional Co-ordinator of Solicitors For The Elderly Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Group and is a Full Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.